Wednesday, May 20, 2009

4 km, 1.5 hours

Someone do the math. That's a pretty low velocity, even for a slow-moving guy like myself. And that particular equation pertains to how long it took me to get from the central post office to my office this afternoon.

First of all, I had to get change for the taxi; the relative value of the dirham aside, handing a cabbie a Dh100 note is like handing a U.S. taxi driver a $100 bill. It don't fly... unless you're willing to pay Dh100 for a Dh5 ride.

Outside the mall where I got change was a taxi stand. A taxi came almost immediately; I waved for the woman waiting next to me to get in. Big mistake. I should have thrown some elbows, stepped on the hem of her abaya, something--because my cab-hailing success rate soon went from 100 percent to about 2 percent.

I spent the next hour at several different taxi stands; at each, there was a fairly steady stream of taxis, but they all wanted to go to Mussaffah, an industrial area where many of the laborers live. It's a popular taxi destination because they are always guaranteed a full ride and can get away with charging a flat Dh5 fare because they can turn off their meters when they leave the island.

Then one taxi did agree to give me a lift, and I hopped in the back seat, and an Emirati hopped in the front seat and launched into a heated conversation with the taxi driver. The driver kept pointing back at me and saying, quite obviously, "he was here first" and "I'll come back and get you." Heated escalated to shouting escalated to the driver repeatedly opening the passenger-side door and motioning for the man to get out.

But in the end, I threw my hands in the air and got out before any punches were thrown.

At that point, the bus arrived. I have no idea how the routes work--there are no maps available anyplace but the sides of the buses themselves--but I paid my 1 dirham and hopped onboard, because what the hell, it was headed in the right direction and I only had 15 minutes to get to work.

Just as sweaty as it looks.

Sadly, the bus deviated from its helpful course with an unexpected right turn, and I got off. But happily, another 10 minutes at a taxi stand yielded an air-conditioned ride, and I arrived at work... a half-hour late.

So, in closing, no, I do not want to go to Mussaffah, and no, I have no clue how the bus system here works. That must change.

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